Physical and Engineering Sciences
Winner: Dr Rapela Regina Maphanga
Dr Rapela Regina Maphanga completed her PhD in Physics from the University of Limpopo in 2005. Dr Maphanga is currently a senior researcher at the university's materials modelling centre, which she joined in 2007, following her postdoctoral research on computer simulations of energy-storage device materials.
Her research focuses on computational modelling of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries that are used in energystorage devices. Her primary research interest is theoretical or computational modelling of materials, using both first principle and atomistic simulation methods. This involves prediction of the structure, mechanical, thermal, transport and electronic properties of advanced materials using first principle calculations and classical atomistic simulations.
Dr Maphanga has published her research findings in highprofile scientific journals and is a junior associate at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy. She has supervised to completion one PhD, four Master's and six honours students. She has published 13 articles in peer reviewed journals. Dr Maphanga was a visiting researcher at University College London, UK, in 2010 and 2011. She represented South Africa during the World Economic Forum's annual meeting of the New Champions in China in 2011, and was selected as member of the Global Young Academy, including being a member of the academy's science education and women in science working groups.
She served on the Women in Physics in South Africa group from 2009 to date. In 2012 she was featured in Mail & Guardian's 200 Young South Africans and the Book of South African Women.
Dr Maphanga is also a science advisor for Wiley Publishing.
First runner-up: Prof. Riana Bornman
Prof. Riana Bornman completed her degree in medicine at the University of Pretoria (UP) in 1973, a DSc at UP in 1983 and an MD at the former University of the Orange Free State in 1987.
She is currently Extraordinary Professor in Andrology in the Department of Urology at the Faculty of Health Sciences at UP. From basic scientific research in human male reproductive health, her interest extended to animals and wildlife as biosentinel species to define the sequelae of environmental pollution and ultimately come up with strategies to mitigate human health problems.
Since 2002, her public health focus has been on health effects in malarial areas where insecticides, including DDT (a known endocrine disrupter and toxicant), are applied for mosquito vector control with inadvertent exposure of humans and the environment. She has done extensive research in communities of the Vhembe district of Limpopo, using local VhaVenda women for training, recruitment and data collection.
She is an NRF C1-rated researcher, a member of the UP Centre for Sustainable Malaria Vector Control and served on several World Health Organisation (WHO) committees. Findings on the various routes of DDT uptake after spraying were incorporated in the WHO DDT Health Risk Assessment (2011). She has compiled various reports for the Water Research Commission on endocrine disrupters, DDT and human and environmental health effects.
She has published in more than 114 local and international peer-reviewed journals and has presented her work at many local and international conferences.
Second runner-up: Dr Mercy Tshilidzi Mashamba
Dr Mercy Tshilidzi Mashamba completed her PhD in psychology at the University of Venda in 2010.
She is currently the Head of the Department of Psychology and Vice Dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of Venda. Her PhD was on developing an HIV and Aids training manual for faith healers, and evaluating their HIV and Aids knowledge before and after training.
The training was done using the information-motivation-behaviour skills model of STI/HIV risk behaviour change. Dr Mashamba 's research interest is health promotion, focusing on indigenous knowledge systems and HIV and Aids. Her research promotes the contribution made by indigenous healers and advocates for collaboration between indigenous healers and Western health practitioners. She also promotes voluntary counselling and testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted infections and conducts skillstraining for negotiating safer sex.
Her work has benefitted people – in particular women – in the rural areas of Limpopo. She has published nine research articles in local and international journals and co-edited one book.
Dr Mashamba serves as a reviewer for different journals and has an excellent record of awards, scholarships and research funding.